AWC report finds 75 percent of members’ energy met with biomass

By Katie Fletcher | January 31, 2017

The American Wood Council recently released its second Industry Progress Report, finding that the broad forest products industry is the largest producer and user of bioenergy of any industrial sector. On average, AWC member companies have met over 75 percent of their energy needs from biomass over the last decade.

 “The report shows that there have been significant improvements over the last decade in the areas of environment, energy and safety, despite the economic downturn that caused a drop in wood products manufacturing in 2009,” said Robert Glowinski, AWC president and CEO. “AWC members are very proud of their record of mill safety, energy management and efficiency, and protection of the environment while producing products that are central to the lives and homes of all Americans.”

Industry’s use of biomass manufacturing residuals for energy has resulted in greenhouse gas reduction benefits equivalent to about 24 million tons of carbon dioxide—or the equivalent of removing approximately 4.6 million cars from the road each year, the report highlighted. This serves to decrease the use of fossil fuels and reduce the landfilling of biomass residues, thereby conserving landfill space and avoiding methane production.

A decade-long trend of steady biomass energy use, amongst AWC member facilities, was reported. The energy intensity for 2014 was 6 percent lower compared to 2004, and, according to the report, small variations could be due to the fact that energy use is not directly proportional to production and that inefficiencies can occur when facilities operate at lower production than normal.

The wood products sector’s energy consumption is less than 4 percent of the total manufacturing sector’s energy consumption, based on U.S. Energy Information data from the 2010 manufacturing energy consumption survey.

The report also provided a safety profile, detailing that over the last decade, safety at member wood products manufacturing mills as reported by OSHA recordable cases has improved by almost 20 percent, dropping from a recordable case rate of 3.4 in 2004 to 2.8 in 2014. However, the incidence rate has been slowly rising since 2008, with 2014’s incidence rate at 2.8, about 40 percent more than in 2008.

According to the progress report, although wood production still remains significantly below its pre-recession levels, Federal Reserve Board data indicates that U.S. production of wood products has rebounded by 28 percent between its mid-2009 cyclical low point and the end of 2015. Sales from wood products companies has also risen from $57.6 billion in 2009 to $82.4 billion in 2015. The wood products industry accounted for 1.4 percent of U.S. manufacturing gross domestic product in 2015, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis compiled data.

Wood products companies are also making more investments since the recession—nearly 2.5 times the spending low of $1.6 billion in 2009 to $4 billion on capital improvements in 2014.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, wood products employment has also been making a recovery in recent years. Wood products employment bottomed out at 337,100 employees in 2011 and has been incrementally increasing as housing starts and industry production recovers, increasing 5.6 percent in 2014 and 2.2 percent in 2015 to 379,800.

AWC’s full 16-page Industry Progress Report: Environment, Energy & Safety can be downloaded here.